Globetrotters a slam dunk with Balboa students

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters on Wednesday dribbled between legs, around backs, over shoulders and through the gates of Balboa Elementary School as part of a promotion for heart-healthy lifestyles.

“It is very important to let the kids know that they must include in their everyday life some type of physical activity — it could be walking, jumping rope, playing basketball — because it is good for you and it is good for the heart,” Harlem Globetrotters team member Kevin Daley said.

Balboa Elementary won the visit from the basketball showmen after signing up to participate in the American Heart Assn.’s Jump for Heart event, which the school will host on Feb. 18. The association celebrates February as American Heart Month, and uses it to draw attention to heart disease and other heart-related illnesses.

The excitement surrounding the Globetrotters’ visit was building for days, teachers and staff said. They received calls from parents asking if they could attend.

“A lot of the kids are really young, so they didn’t know who are the Harlem Globetrotters,” said Balboa PTA President Patricia Morgan. “We parents know because we grew up with the cartoons, they were everywhere in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

The students wore red for the occasion, and the cheers grew louder and louder with each trick performed. The commotion attracted the attention of a handful of neighbors who pressed against the playground fence to take in the action.

At the conclusion of the show, students lined up for photo ops and autographs.

Promoting active lifestyles among young children is increasingly important, Daley said, especially as computers and video games play more prominent roles in daily life.

“As I child, I played every single sport there was,” Daley said. “My parents had to come and get me. Nowadays you have to force the kids to go outside.”

The Harlem Globetrotters performance, and the Jump for Heart event, fit in with the school’s larger mission of encouraging students to make smart choices, said Principal Lena Richter. And the message is starting to hit home.

“Many of the parents are saying that their kids are telling them, ‘Don’t eat this, it’s not good for you,’” Richter said.

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